France study abroad provides dazzling exerience

Known for its famous wines and cheeses, France is one of the world's  most popular tourist destinations, and for four short weeks, my classmates  and I were fortunate enough to live in its iconic capital city. From July 5 to Aug. 5, 18 students spent the month enrolled in Geneseo's  study abroad Humanities II program based in Paris, France.

The course, coordinated by professor of French and Western Humanities  Beverly Evans and taught by lecturer Marc Johnson '10, took our group  up to the beaches of Normandy, down around the chateaus of the Loire  Valley, over to historic sites in Belgium and all around the beautiful  streets of Paris itself.

Students took a regular Humanities II class, but because the semester's  worth of material was all crammed into four weeks, the class was fast-paced.

Luckily for us, being able to write a research paper in a French café  or study for a midterm in a Parisian park made it remarkably easier  to deal with the arduous and sometimes tedious material that inevitably  comes with a humanities requirement.

There's also something about being in a city where so many authors  and philosophers have lived while they wrote and studied; I think it  motivated us to absorb the rich culture and appreciate our legendary  surroundings all the more.

Similarly, walking along the beaches of Normandy or going to areas  in Belgium that inspired political poetry, such as “In Flanders Fields”  by Lt. Col. John McCrae, allowed the heavy material of a humanities  class to become relatable and tangible in a way that could only be achieved  through this kind of immersive experience.

Of course, like many students who study abroad, we also found that  we had some of the most unforgettable experiences once class let out.

Naturally, students did all the required tourist things: the Eiffel  Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Versailles Palace, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame  and the Louvre.

The trip did also include some bonuses: witnessing the Tour de France  speed through the center of the city and experiencing a straight month  of some of the best summer weather to grace Paris in over 10 years.

We even had a chance to commemorate France's fight for independence  with the locals by watching the city's annual Bastille Day fireworks  display pop over the Seine and attending a Firemen's Ball, which was  essentially a giant, public and all-night rave hosted by the dashing  volunteers themselves.

The experience was, as a whole, remarkably didactic, surprisingly  entertaining and unequivocally memorable. I will never forget the rare  bonds I formed with the people I met, the delectable food we unapologetically  devoured or the astonishing - and sometimes unexpected - places in which  we found ourselves throughout the month.

I urge anyone who has the opportunity to travel abroad to take full  advantage of it. The program is more than just a chance to get Humanities  II out of the way during the off-season; it's an unparalleled experience  that I highly doubt anyone involved will soon forget.